Banchory St Ternan are the Division 1 champions after a 3-0 win against Deveronside at Milton Park last Saturday.
Before the game, the Banff side were lying in second place five points adrift of Saints with a game in hand, but Banchory snuffed out any hopes they had to finish the season on 47 points from 24 games, with Deveronside on 39 points with one game remaining.
Manager Ewan Robb knew well in advance that he would be missing captain Steve Travers and midfielder Steve Young, top scorer Ryan Whelan, who were all unavailable, and long term injured Jason Ritchie. So the full squad was utilised for this crucial game with the addition of young Robbie Coutts on the bench.
The Banff side were on the front foot right from the start and Saints keeper Ross Salmon did well to punch clear an awkward corner kick in the 2nd minute and the visitors continued to look dangerous in the opening five minutes.
Mark Reid went close for Saints when he controlled the ball just outside the box and turned his defender to send his low shot two feet past. But on 14 minutes the Lumsden youngster found the net to open the scoring. Dean Henderson made a tenacious run down the right and squared the ball to Reid, who shot first time to find the net off the post.
This calmed the nerves both on and off the park, but Deveronside were still looking dangerous although not troubling Salmon too much.
There was a good chance passed up when Jordan Clark ran in from the right, beating two defenders, and instead of laying off to Henderson on the left he shot weakly past the post. On 30 minutes a needless free kick gave Deveronside an opportunity to send a header just over the Banchory bar.
Three minutes later the visitors gave away a free kick on the right. Ben Ross sent in the cross which Josh Robertson headed to the back post, where Aaron Thomson rose above everyone to send a looping header over the keeper for his first goal of the season to make it 2-0.
It was almost three a few minutes later when Darren Reid’s lung-bursting run down the left ended with his cross being headed just over by Dean Henderson.
In the very first minute of the second half Mark Reid was the provider to find Jordan Clark and it looked as though the midfielder would score but his effort was blocked. Two corners followed that were scrambled away by the Deveronside defence.
On 58 minutes Ross Salmon made a fine one-handed save low to his left from a headed corner to maintain Banchory’s two-goal advantage. Shortly after there were loud claims for a penalty when the Deveronside centre forward fell in the box.
Play was hotting up now as Deveronside became a bit more energised, perhaps realising that they needed to win the game to have any chance of the league title.
There was more pace in Saints’ game now and with 15 minutes left came the decisive third goal that sealed the championship. Darren Reid was bearing down on goal when he was brought down 12 yards out and captain for the day Grant Munro stepped up to slot the ball home from the penalty spot.
The remainder of the game was all Saints. Munro beat the offside trap to square to Darren Reid only do be denied a fourth goal by the keeper’s low save. Munro was then booked for a tackle that resulted in his injury and replacement by Craig Peters with ten minutes remaining.
Peters was prominent in these final minutes, finding plenty of space down the right. With five minutes to go Greig Smith made his comeback from injury, replacing the hard-working Mark Reid.
Celebrations ensued for some considerable time as the North Region secretary was on hand to present the Division 1 trophy and medals.
It is a huge credit to the management team who kept the players together after last season’s relegation disappointment to get the club back to the Superleague at the first time of asking.
Manager Ewan Robb said afterwards: “I’m obviously delighted for the players, the coaching staff and everybody at the club. It’s a great reflection on all the hard work everyone has put in. The players were brilliant today.
“We’ve got a way of playing and whoever plays in each position knows what we’re looking for. I thought we controlled the game well and got two good first-half goals. They had a spell in the second half which we expected as they’re pushing to get something from the game but we regained control and the penalty puts the game to bed.”
Banchory: Salmon, Conran Wilson, Cheyne, Thomson, Robertson, Ross, Munro (Peters), D Reid, M Reid (Smith), Henderson, Clark (Calum Wilson). Subs not used: Rose, Coutts.
Saints have the chance to win a league and cup double when they take on Buchanhaven Hearts in the AM Property Maintenance Morrison Cup final at New Advocates Park this Friday evening, kick-off 7.15pm.